Jostling for crumbs dropping off the Republic of South Africa’s (RSA) dining table was never going to be a potent and sustainable strategy to solve Matabeleland’s social, economic and political challenges faced in Zimbabwe. The RSA is not home, our home lies north of the Limpopo River. Some Matabeles are indeed of South African extraction and do have legitimate claim to links with communities south of the Limpopo River, but on the whole we are strangers in that land, if ever there was any proof required, the latest work permit determination by the RSA government shows we are perceived as aliens there. We have to sort our homeland west of Mashonaland, no matter what that may take.
Recognising and being aware of traps in one’s way is essential in finding the way out to safety and security. We realise now that we moved to the RSA without an exit strategy, a move that has left us vulnerable as a nation. We became too comfortable for our own good, and overstayed our welcome in the RSA. Placing our safety and future in the RSA’s hands was always risky political business; loyalties in politics are temporary, at the best.
It was always a risk for our people to turn the RSA into a home. For some time now the worry in Matabeleland is that in the presence of the RSA is a ready-made ‘escape route’, and instead of fighting for their rights in their homeland our people will inadvertently take their obedient place in Zimbabwean political space and hope to become successful cogs in the wheel, let the wheel spin them at will without taking a look at what they are doing.
We are concerned that in the face of deception, intimidation and calculated attacks, our people have become passive recipients of the abusive doctrine and system handed down to them from Harare, its media, ZANU PF history textbooks and educators. It is a system that rewards chaos over moral integrity.
However, feeling sorry for ourselves is not an option of choice anymore; we must be proactive, men and women of Matabeleland need to get up and start planning for the nation we want or we will find ourselves constantly doing repair work on systems and institutions handed over to us – systems that bear little to no resemblance to our culture and needs.
Good things will not happen to us, but we need to go out and make some good things happen. What we require is political capital to get things to happen in our political space. Quantity and quality of participants in our political movements must improve for greater progress to be made.
As pointed earlier, focus must move away from reactive to proactive interventions; the former are often not empowering because they are merely a response to others’ actions. We require proactive interventions to increase the quality of politics as well as infuse safeguards in our political system, and these can be furthered by everyone taking personal responsibility. We need intrapersonal education that will emphasise a conscious focus on the individual as a starting point for transformation towards a sustainable Matabeleland focused political system.
But a major transformation needs to take place in how the Matabeleland movements or organisations operate. This will mean a wilful and complete shift from the current set-up that leaves groups effectively operating as private enfranchises attempting, all by themselves, to deliver the public from the rogue Zimbabwean system to organisations that fully incorporate public participation in their operations.
There is always a problem with private entities trying to bring about solutions to public issues without taking an interest in the public. Arguably, many of the organisations fronting the Matabeleland movement are closed to even the most driven individuals; the public does not feel they are taken serious or their views matter. This may explain why the movement is struggling to build meaningful social and political capital.
The organisations must fundamentally transform their relationship with citizens; in a typically proactive engagement, organisations must approach citizens to understand public needs so as to help create a system of mutual trust and detect changes and challenges early enough and gradually improve the quality of politics, systems and policy formulation programmes.
We conclude with a reminder that we have within us the power to choose how we respond to the corruptible, tribal and divisive politics in Zimbabwe. We cannot control the Shonalisation efforts of the state by ZANU PF/ MDC and their allies, but we can control how we recreate our systems in the full understanding that our lives are not a result of our environment or upbringing, but a result of our choices. We have the ability to determine the kind of life we want to live and the type of society we wish for ourselves today while also taking seriously our responsibility to future generations.